Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game Review: Bejeweled Blitz Live

Bejeweled Blitz Live is only worth getting if you don't have Facebook and a decent computer, otherwise it's a bit of a ripoff.
Bejeweled Blitz Live was released around thirteen months ago on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade. It was the latest in PopCap's incredibly successful Bejeweled game series. Bejeweled 3 has since replaced this game as the latest release in the series. Bejeweled Blitz was actually first released as a Facebook application, and currently still pulls in over 11 million players on a monthly basis.
Let's have a Pah-tay! Woo! A Bejeweled Blitz Pah-tay! Wo!
Bejeweled Blitz Live takes the very successful yet simple game formula that has been around for around thirty years now, where you have to align a certain amount of gems of the same colour, thus eliminating them from the grid for a score. In this variation, Bejeweled requires you to align three gems of the same colour, with bonuses increasing you score based on how quickly you do each elimination, if you combine more than three gems (you can also combine four and five gems, and also five gems forming a cross) and if you combine multiple eliminations in one movement.

So why is the Facebook application so successful? Well, the hook on Bejeweled Blitz in comparison to its younger and older brothers (Bejeweled 3 and 2 respectively) is that you have 60 seconds to get the biggest score tally as possible. 60 seconds. It's nice and quick and you can get a really good score if you work hard enough. You can compare your score to your friends scores if they are also playing the game. That's why it pulls in 11 million players each month. It's nice and easy to get into, very hard to master and it's enticingly competitive.

PopCap saw money in making this game available on the XBox Live Arcade. Why? Well it's no secret that XBox Live is an incredibly successful and interactive service that Microsoft provide. If XBox players and their friends start playing this game, they'll also get hooked on it, get competitive, and try to beat each others scores.

So what's different with this game than its Facebook application equivalent? Well, with it not being a Facebook app and a full game instead, they couldn't just port it straight. It wouldn't be worth any price, what with the Facebook application being free providing naturally, you have Facebook. So they had to spruce it up a little. And that's exactly what they did. There are two modes available in Bejeweled Blitz Live on the XBox Live Arcade. You have the traditional game that's available on Facebook. Sixty seconds, get as big a score as you can. The second mode is Bejeweled Twist mode. Bejeweled Twist is another relatively successful variation of the quite overworked Bejeweled formula; it requires you to twist the gems in a clockwise or anticlockwise motion, rather than side to side like in the original mode. It's a tactically harder game but if mastered, it's arguably capable of getting a better score. You can play against your friend, or up to fifteen friends if you connect via XBox Live. Haven't got any friends that play the game? Well you can play against up to fifteen random strangers as well.
Twist or Classic. Any other options? Nope.
What else is there to offer on this game? Well I hate to break it for you, but that's all there is. Nothing else. You have these two game modes and that's pretty much it. So if you have a Facebook account and like Bejeweled Blitz as an application, you're not really missing out on anything here, unless you desperately want to try out Bejeweled Twist that badly. Oh, and that's available as a Facebook application too, to my knowledge as well. So yeah, you're not really missing out on anything at all, unless you want to play the game against multiple people at the same time. But that, for me, is not the only thing that's bad about this game.

For me, what I find equally as annoying about the XBox Live version is the sound and music. It's quite frankly, atrocious. To cut some slack a little, I can appreciate that a game like Bejeweled Blitz isn't about the music and more about the action on the screen, but having some drum and bass music in the backgrounds really takes the biscuit a little. Why? Well it's simply distracting. I have Bejeweled 2 on my XBox Live as well, and comparing the two games for music, Bekeweled 2 has ambient music. You know, calm music. Music that doesn't detract from the action. Having drum and bass was a terrible mistake. Not only that, but you have a female narrator telling you that your time is running low as you approach the end of your sixty seconds. I think that's also a bad move, as it makes you panic a little as you try to boost your score as high as possible before the clock runs out. On the Facebook application a horn makes a noise as your approaching 'time up' and while that's a little frustrating, it's nothing on this. It makes me want to play Bejeweled Blitz Live on mute if anything.

Two more things that need to be brought up that are, sorry to report, negative, are the colours. In other Bejeweled games you usually have pretty colours in the background but colours that contrast the gems and the foreground. In this game, they've opted for a more dark colours scheme; dark blues, reds and yellows and darker greys. While you can tell your gems apart and everything, it's still an inferior choice of background schemes than in previous games in the series. The idea is to have nice backgrounds that don't interrupt play, and while these backgrounds aren't in your face, they're still a little distracting. It just feels at time with the music and colour schemes that having a rave is more important than playing a game of Bejeweled. Another thing that is worthy to mention is the controls. If you like playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook with your mouse then you'll probably find the controls difficult with an XBox control pad. It's harder to twist gems around with the control pad than with a mouse. That's not criticising PopCap, in the end, the game is just more well suited to a PC than an XBox.
WOW! Loads of things going on at once! I can't see properly...
To summarise, Bejeweled Blitz Live is only worth getting if you really like the Facebook application but simply don't have a Facebook account anymore. Or, if you like the idea of playing Bejeweled Blitz with loads of people at the same time competitively. Otherwise frankly, this game is a ripoff. Considering you get the best of the game for free on Facebook completely makes the purchase unjustified. It just feels like PopCap wanted to milk as much money from this overworked formula as possible, and saw a market on XBox Live to make some money. Well, it worked. I'm not saying Bejeweled Blitz Live is a bad game, it's not. It's Bejeweled. If you've played it before and like it you'll like this. But... why don't you just play it for free on Facebook? It's just not worth buying it for XBox Live... apart from the reasons above. Have many friends that like Bejeweled Blitz and are also worth willing to spend the money buying this game individually? Then it might be worth it. Or, play against up to 15 strangers if you like that. That aside, seriously, save your pennies and avoid buying this game. If you want a Bejeweled game on the XBox then I'd recommend you get Bejeweled 2 or 3, depending on how updated you want the game; there's not much between those two games either. As I said, it's an overworked formula, a good one, but man, it's overworked.

Rating: *** stars
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